Who's Your Diva? Week 2

Featured divas: Frances Leach and Giselle Stone

Juneau Lyric Opera will hold their second annual “Who’s Your Diva?” fundraiser on Sept. 15, featuring an all-new lineup of local divas.

In preparation for this year’s event, the Empire will present brief interviews with each of the nine divas throughout the month of August. This week’s featured divas are Frances Leach and Giselle Stone

Frances Leach

First memorable public performance:

I was 4 years old and cast as a sheep in my church’s Christmas pageant. Pushing the role a little too far as a “lost sheep,” I went rogue and started doing acrobatics on the communion benches. My brother was a shepherd and he was chasing me around with his staff trying to rein me in. Although it got a few laughs, it turns out upstaging baby Jesus is not looked highly upon.

Three singers (famous or not) who have influenced you throughout your singing career:

My mom has been singing to me since I was in the womb. She has the most beautiful voice and she could have been famous had she not married a fisherman and moved to Alaska. My other influence is Ella Fitzgerald. She was my “vocal coach” while I was growing up and I would rehearse with her music for hours, studying her voice and learning her technique. Lately I can’t get enough Brandi Carlile. Her voice is stellar, her lyrics fresh and rich, and best of all, she can rock. I’d like to be her when I grow up.

Three songs you absolutely love to sing:

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by the Beatles is a great song to sing. I love it because it transposes well to rock, jazz, pop, folk or whatever genre I’m in the mood to sing. When someone asks me to sing on the spot, I always choose a riff of the nursery rhyme “Old Mother Hubbard” that Ella Fitzgerald used to belt out. I also often sing “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” by the Rolling Stones to my 2- and 5-year-old girls. They don’t really appreciate it, but I find it amusing and it helps me stay sane.

Three songs in heavy rotation on your iPod/CD player right now:

My girls are the deejays of my iPod, and lately they like “Lucky Star” by Madonna and “Here Comes My Baby” by Cat Stevens. When they let me choose, I play Brandi Carlile’s new album “Bear Creek.”

Three local performers you admire:

First and foremost, Mike Maas. He’s got superb talent and his versatility is off the chart. Kari Groven always blows me away too. She’s fairly quiet and unassuming, but when she steps on stage, she’s a vocal tiger. Last but not least, Scarlett Adam. The first time I heard Scarlett sing, she brought tears to my eyes and I finally understood the phrase “sings like an angel.”

Favorite place to sing (besides the stage):

Growing up, my favorite place to sing was the flying bridge of my father’s boat, as it was the only place I could escape and be by myself. It was an amazing feeling to sing at the top of my lungs, only to be drowned out by the engine and crash of the waves hitting the hull. Nowadays, I like to sing while I’m running. I’m sure I look like a kook, especially when I’m playing air guitar.

Famous movie or theater role you could easily win an Oscar or a Tony Award for if given the chance:

I’ve always enjoyed writing and performing comedic shorts and making up goofy songs. I’d like to be a regular on Saturday Night Live, and if they gave me an Emmy for my performance, well, that would be pretty swell.

Other interests besides singing:

I like to cook, run, fish, garden, hike, travel and have dance parties with my girls.

Giselle Stone

First memorable public performance:

As a third grader, I played the role of the “Queen of Summer” in a Harborview Elementary original play. I believe I wore a wreath of flowers and sang about summer in the Harborview gym. However, a much more memorable performance was singing “Danny Boy” for the first time at my fifth grade talent show.

Three singers (famous or not) who have influenced you throughout your singing career:

First and foremost, my childhood vocal teacher, Joyce Parry Moore. Also Marjory Halvorson of Spokane, who helped develop my adult voice throughout college; and last but not least, my Dad. It has been pointed out to me that I sing quite frequently throughout my day without noticing what I’m singing or humming, but it wasn’t until recently that I connected the dots and realized I had acquired that trait from my father! He’s quite the crooner.

Three songs you absolutely love to sing:

“I Dreamed a Dream,” Les Miserables (diva…naturally)

“Annie’s Song,” John Denver

“Your Song,” Elton John…. I know, how cliché can I get? But, honestly, those are my top three.

Three songs in heavy rotation on your iPod/CD player right now:

“Bonafied Lovin,” Chromeo; “Call Your Girlfriend,” Robyn; “Marry the Night,” Lady Gaga

Three local performers you admire:

Lahna Deering from Deering and Down, Kari Groven, and Shona Strauser.

Favorite place to sing (besides the stage):

Hands down, best place to sing is in the bathtub.

Famous movie or theater role you could easily win an Oscar or a Tony Award for if given the chance:

I don’t think this role would ever be Tony-winning material, but Tony and Oscars aside, I still think I would make a great Kathy Selden in “Singing in the Rain.”

So, if anyone is contemplating remaking the movie, keep me in mind.

Other interests besides singing:

Swimming, traveling, wine tasting, scuba diving, sailing, ballroom dancing and building fires on the beach.


For more information on Who’s Your Diva?, visit www.juneauopera.org.

To read last week’s diva inerviews with Bobbi Mitchell and Cheryl Crawford, visit juneauempire.com/art/2012-08-02/bobbi-mitchell


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